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Checklist for choosing sheltered housing

Before you choose accommodation in sheltered housing, it’s a good idea to think through the practicalities, costs and legal issues.
4 min read
In this article
What practicalities should I be aware of? What additional costs might I incur? What are the legal issues of sheltered housing?
Downloadable checklist

What practicalities should I be aware of?

Checklist (ticks)
  • Location: where is the sheltered housing located? Is it in a familiar area? Will you be close to family and friends? Is it close to local transport links, shops, a GP?

  • Size: how big is the accommodation? If you’re downsizing to a smaller property, you may not be able to take all your furniture and possessions with you.

  • Facilities: does the accommodation have all the facilities that you want and need? For example, a laundry service and a 24-hour alarm system?

  • Scheme manager: does the manager live on or offsite, and is this important to you? What duties is the scheme manager responsible for, for example, does he or she check up on residents daily? Are they full time or part time? What hours are they available to residents? Are any changes being planned for the way in which the service is delivered?

  • Management: is the scheme manager a member of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM)? All management organisations registered with the ARHM should follow its government-approved code of practice. Some managing agents are members of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) rather than ARHM, and this also has a standards charter that their members must follow.

  • Emergencies: how is the alarm system managed and who answers the call? Where is the alarm call directed to – local emergency services, elected family member/friend or a scheme manager? How are emergencies dealt with? What happens when the scheme manager isn’t on the premises?

  • Additional care: regular sheltered housing does not provide any form of personal or medical care, although extra care housing offers some assistance with personal care. Consider your needs carefully. Ask about what happens if you require personal care in the future? Will you be able to have care at home or will it be necessary to move?

  • Parking: if you have a car, is there an allocated parking space with the property? If there are charges, make sure you know what they are. If you own a mobility scooter, are there storage facilities available?

  • Pets: if you have pets, will you be able to take them with you? Not all properties will allow pets and those that do often have a policy that if you're pet dies, you won't be able to replace him or her.

  • Visitors: are there good transport links for family and friends to visit? If you want to have guests, is this possible in your own apartment? Some schemes offer guest rooms that can be rented to visitors.

  • Communications: is there a phone line, internet/wi-fi, or satellite or cable TV if you want it, and what are the costs?

Don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision. This is a big step, and you and your family should be given the space you need to make the choice that’s right for you. On the other hand, do remember that someone else may make an offer on a popular leasehold property and that council/housing association offers usually have to be accepted within a specified time.

Don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision. This is a big step, and you and your family should be given the space you need to make the choice that’s right for you.

The Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) has developed a Quality of Information Mark (QI Mark) to encourage scheme managers to provide detailed information about their facilities to potential residents and their families.

What additional costs might I incur?

There can be various additional costs involved if you live in sheltered housing. These can include:

  • Utilities: there may be charges for gas and electricity for individual properties. Find out out the average monthly costs for these utilities.
  • Service charges: most leasehold properties make a ‘service charge’ for things such as external maintenance, repairs and building insurance. Find out how much the service charge is and ask if there is a written brochure, with a list of costs and a copy of the lease that you can take away with you.
  • Hidden charges: watch out for hidden charges, such as costs if you want to make adaptations or home improvements to the property. ​​​

Our article about the additional costs of sheltered housing has more information about the most common charges to be aware of. 

What are the legal issues of sheltered housing?

Checklist (ticks)
  • The future: although none of us can see into the future, it’s a good idea to know your options and liabilities if your circumstances change. For example, if you develop an illness or disability that requires more specialist medical care, the contract might say that you can’t do this or it might incur extra cost.

  • Notice period: check how much notice is required to leave before signing a tenancy agreement, and how easy it is to cancel/leave should you wish to make alternative housing arrangements. 

  • Extras: check the lease for specific conditions about moving if you’re planning to buy. Find out about resale values of similar properties and any fees that may be incurred if the property is sold or left vacant.

  • Small print: make sure you read the terms and conditions of the lease or tenancy before signing anything or making any decisions.


Downloadable checklist

Checklist for choosing sheltered housing
(pdf 52 Kb)

Further reading

Extra care housing

Extra care housing offers more support than standard sheltered accommodation. Some schemes offer dementia support.

Last updated: 18 Dec 2020